Veterans Misperceived by Howard Freedlander

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This is a story about a questionable narrative about veterans’ mental health in our modern-day America, told in an unusujal 70-minute musical drama. The impact is powerful. The message is mind-changing.

Jaymes Poling, who spent three tours as part of the elite 82nd Airborne Division, returned to his country having to cope with public perceptions that he and his fellow veterans were damaged goods suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known by its ubiquitous acronym, PTSD. He was 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He retired as a 26-year-old staff sergeant.

Jaynes Poling and Dominick Farinacci

When Poling returned home, seeking help from the Veterans Administration (VA) to adapt to civilian life after serving three separate years as an infantryman in Afghanistan, he immediately received a diagnosis as a victim of PTSD. Medications followed as dispensed by the well-meaning but misdirected VA.

Two fortuitous things happened to Poling: he met a woman in Cleveland and decided to return to school, and he crossed paths with Dominick Farinacci, a world-class trumpeter and music composer. Along the way, Poling decided that PTSD was misapplied in his case. Instead, he had a more positive self-diagnosis: post-traumatic growth.

Collaborating with Farinacci on an autobiographical music drama, Poling realized that veterans not just of his era but throughout history bring special skills to the civilian world. They had learned about leadership, responsibility for themselves and their fellow soldiers and compassion for the men and women with whom they served in combat.

Through the “Modern Warrior Live, which will come to the Avalon in Easton on Saturday, Nov. 18, Farinacci and Poling hope not only to change perceptions about veterans but develop a connection to the civilian world by telling a dramatic story, backed by gripping music. Perhaps, just perhaps, the public will view veterans as having special talents; the “goods” they carry are in their hearts and minds first-rate value and deserve respect.

To better understand the unusual performance, with my admittedly favorable opinion of veterans and the life-threatening experiences they encountered in combat, I spoke with Poling and Farinacci after talking with Richard Marks and Al Sikes–who not only are financial supporters of the Avalon performance but also two gentlemen known as superb volunteers and leaders in the community.

Farinacci said that during his collaboration with Jaymes Poling he saw “the power of music to build bridges, to develop a pathway to empathy, to change perceptions and create a dialogue between the military and civilians.” He repeatedly characterized poling as “authentic.”

During the production of the show, Poling said, “Sometimes the music didn’t feel right. I had to reevaluate times of my life. I had to sort out my feelings. It was not the fault of the music. The artistic musical interactions helped me hone my thoughts.”

As he discussed his life in combat and on civilian turf, Poling said he was careful. “I don’t want to tell stories that don’t belong to me,” he said. While he mentioned the name of a friend and fellow soldier killed in battle, he had checked with the friend’s mother beforehand.

Both Farinacci and Poling agreed that the message of healing and post-traumatic growth had universal implications. It applies to personal tragedy. Poling pointed to people dealing with cancer. “Why assign labels to the survivors? They have issues that provide them with a different filter on life—and a viewpoint that says ‘root for me,’ Poling said.

In summing up his appraisal of “Modern Warrior Live,” Farinacci said, “It was a 100 percent creative development. It stayed true to Jaymes’ story, with magical moments. There is absolutely no substitute for a person who went through it (war), Jaymes allows us to connect to veterans, to find out ‘what did you do?’’ His voice is authentic.”

By the time that the show comes to Easton, it will have played in New York City and Chicago.

Echoing the sentiment expressed by Poling and a videotaped cameo appearance by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Richard Marks said, “The country has to get there, understanding that PTSD is being treated in the wrong way. The show is cathartic and emotional. The veterans are not damaged goods.”

Marks, who served on submarines in the US. Navy, said he learned “the value of dependence on others and a level of camaraderie.” These lessons learned are applicable to civilian life.

A jazz enthusiastic, Al Sikes spoke about Dominic Farinacci’s “lyrical trumpet’ and the emotion it spawns. “You can tell stories with the horn,” he said. He referred to Poling’s powerful narrative.” He too spoke about the retired staff sergeant’s authenticity.

Though he never served in the military. Sikes said he gained a new appreciation for military members after the September 11, 2001 attacks on our American homeland.

I applaud Marks and Sikes for helping to provide the financial support for a music drama intent on changing the image of a military veteran and bridging the gap between combat soldiers and a civilian world drawn to misconceptions about hardened veterans. Memories of combat and death do not vanish; nor are they necessarily personal aspects that should consign veterans to life with a label. While painful at times, heart-wrenching experiences can and do strengthen a person.

Dominick Farinacci and Jaynes Poling have combined their particular skills and experiences into a production embodying creative energy, musical excellence and pure, personal testimony. The result should capture rapt attention and change misconceptions.

Chesapeake Music Presents Modern Warrior Live on Saturday, November 19 at the Avalon starting at 8:00 pm. For more information on tickets please go here.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia. 

A Trust Has Been Broken

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As U.S. citizens, we know that we are not alone in feeling a deep sense of betrayal.

We believe that a trust, treasured, and defended by generation after generation, is being steadily broken.  This sense of betrayal has escalated during the current Trump administration.

We were always taught, and still passionately think, that citizens have a dual responsibility in life: first, to look out for ourselves, individually; and second, to look out for our fellow human beings, and the environment, as one United States — E Pluribus Unum.

We can still be free to act, as long as we don’t diminish someone else’s freedom.  In turn, others can be free to act, provided they don’t dilute our freedom.

Among others, the Biblical writers, Socrates, modern philosophers, and democratic statesmen, have asserted the concept of the “social contract.”  This bedrock idea has been the foundation upon which our people have joined together, and created an orderly society which, while honoring the individual, also preserves the collective.

Either by overt or tacit agreement, citizens hold certain expectations of one another, the larger community and its government.  By the consent of the majority, rules, laws and social norms govern how individuals and groups treat each other. This shared contract is based on the trust that all will respect rights given equally to all..

For example, In the Pledge of Allegiance, we acknowledge that we are one nation, under God.  A trust has been broken when a religious group of our citizens, Jews or Muslims, don’t receive the same deference or respect as Christians.

In the Pledge of Allegiance, we declare that liberty and justice are for all.  A trust has been broken when black people, brown people, immigrant people, gay people, lesbian people, transgender people, and Indigenous people, do not enjoy justice and liberty, fairly and equally.

The United States Constitution proclaims that each citizen is entitled to speak freely about their beliefs.   But a trust has been broken when a sports figure is called a, “son of a bitch,” by his president, and terrorized on social media for kneeling, as his way of exercising his freedom of speech.

A trust has been broken when both members of a couple have to work at not just one, but two or even three jobs each, yet still cannot earn enough to provide the basic American Dream of housing, health, and education for a family.

A fundamental trust has been broken when partisan politicians seek to maintain their power by gerrymandering districts and deliberately suppressing the votes of those not in power.

We could write a whole book of betrayals.  Here is the point.  Those who have broken trust with the social contract must be called to account.  Citizens must speak out and act.

Contract-breakers, especially among the Republican Party do not deserve your vote on Election Day.  Contract-breakers of any political persuasion do not deserve your business.  Contract-breakers must not be allowed to silence us by relentless stoking of fear, and hate.

Citizens:  wake up, stand up, and speak up, for what is right.

Rev. Thomas G. Sinnott

Kitty Maynard

Linda Cades

Erin Anderson

Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, Maryland, Indivisible

October 9, 2017

For more information contact:  Thomas Sinnott  410-699-0064

A Family Plan by Nancy Mugele

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My iPhone ringer has been on 24-7 on its loudest setting for nearly two months and I have no intention of turning it down anytime soon. I thought as an empty-nester I would not need to have my phone near me at all times of day and night but I have since changed my mind. Adult children living in places near and far, or travelling to places near and far, feel secure knowing that the red roof inn is monitoring their whereabouts.

On August 11, my youngest left on a trip out west on a quest to find the best trout fishing in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and now, British Columbia. You can read about his adventures with his black lab Boh on his blog at thefishwhistler.com. My temporarily jobless, homeless son, who says he has never been happier writing and fishing, has been communicating more than normal – which I love – but it is always in the midnight to 2 a.m. time frame when his day out west is winding down and I am in bed. He told me he has been “finding out how much you really need, versus what you think you need.” An idealist and a realist all in one.

Last week my oldest, who believes in the power of experiences, used some vacation time from her job at UnderArmour to travel to Paris for sightseeing, Munich for Oktoberfest and Iceland for a day at the Blue Lagoon. Texts started at 4 a.m. Chestertown time as she began each day’s new adventure. Don’t get me wrong, I loved receiving the photos and messages, but coupled with a few 7:45 a.m. Kent School meetings, I have been especially exhausted for the past two weeks. Luckily, my middle daughter in Nashville is only an hour behind us and since she works at a school like me, she cannot travel in September, although she did get back on Eastern Standard Time this summer for a trip to Florida and two friends’ weddings. But, seriously, I can’t keep track of all the time zones my children are in!

Turn off your phone, you may say, but raising children post-9/11 required a different set of parenting skills than pre-9/11. Communication became the name of the game. We bought our oldest, whose birthday is 9/11 (and who was celebrating her “golden” birthday, turning 11 on 9/11), a cell phone immediately. As parents of a 6th grader in 2001, my husband and I would not have even thought about giving her a cell phone until the day the world stopped and that changed everything for us as parents. Suddenly, I had this intense need to be able to be in communication with my children at all times – especially as they traveled to other schools, towns, playing fields and ice rinks for athletics, or social events.

Parents in constant communication with their children got a bad rap as helicopter parents but truly I think it was purely about the communication – not the control. Parents need to hear their children’s voices especially when they are away from home, and especially in the world we live in which, all too often, it seems, experiences tragedies like terrorist attacks, the Las Vegas shootings, and natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the earthquake in Mexico. My heart aches for all those affected by all of the worst in nature and humanity these past few months.

And, while I don’t think that we should stop living our lives for fear of an attack or natural disaster, I believe we need to be intentional about two things – vigilance and communication. Any of my children could have been at the Jason Aldean concert – and in fact we all just saw him in Nashville at CMAFest. A co-worker just told me she is going to tell her older children to wear comfortable shoes when travelling or gathering in large groups of people so “you can be ready to run.” I am going to say this to mine as well. How sad that this is the world we now live in.

It seems to me that communication, above all else, is critical to our mental state. We have a primal need to let our loved ones know we are safe and to learn that they, too, are safe.  Now as our children live their lives in other parts of the country from home base, I greatly appreciate the cellphones we all carry. I know we constantly say that people are obsessed with their devices and social media, and we urge our friends to put their phone away. But I believe that being on our devices for connection to family and friends is important today for building and maintaining human relationships.

Yes, we still have a family plan with our cell provider and two of our three pay us monthly. (The fisherman has only a few more months with free cell service!) As well, the five of us have a family group text and at least once a day someone makes me smile and LOL across the miles. I will not turn off my phone and miss any of it!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s. 

Not Learning from Experience: The Dangerous Path for Tax Reform by Rob Ketcham

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Are we going to witness the Republicans mounting another policy blitzkrieg, only to fall on their face as they ignore lessons that should have been learned?

As I write this, national attention is being directed by the President and Congressional leaders about a “tax overhaul”, a proposal for a sweeping rewrite of the tax code to reduce tax rates for corporations and individuals and eliminate some popular deductions.

The last major federal tax upgrade was enacted in 1986 and was years in the making. The process followed the path of what is referred to as “regular order”; legislative activities that involve the tax writing committees in the House and Senate, hearings, gathering information on impacts of the propositions being proposed, debating the propositions in the committees, ultimately reaching agreement on a legislative proposition to take to the floor where it may be debated further and amended, passage in both chambers and then, finally, a Conference Committee to settle the differences before the final agreement can be voted on in order to become law.

This process is almost never easy or speedy. A legislative history I am intimately familiar with, The Space Act, was signed into law on July 29, 1958, eight months after the Soviet launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The Select Committee formed to write the bill was said to have “performed its tasks with both amazing speed and skill.” Players included the House Majority Leader John McCormack, Senate Majority leader Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, a future President, and Les Arends, the Republican Whip. The give and take between the Democratic Congress and the Republican Administration (which had its own strongly held ideas about what the Space Act should look like) became a healthy exchange involving Bryce Harlow, Deputy Assistant for Congressional Affairs, and Ed McCabe, Administrative Assistant to President Eisenhower. This arrangement evolved into a daily exchange under “…the stress of time requirements and pride of authorship”so that everyone was kept in the loop, White House, House, and Senate. In other words, everyone worked together.

I wonder if today’s elected Republican leaders truly understand the enormous legislative effort they have pledged to take on this September. It is, in a word, daunting. The simple facts are that this is: (1) a new Administration which came to power rather unexpectedly, and (2) a Congress with a Republican Majority that has not legislated in the tax area for more than twenty years, I’d guess that very few Republican members have ever served as an advocate for any such a massive legislative undertaking— their chosen role for most of their careers has been to be opposed to whatever proposition was being forwarded for their consideration. As a further complication: the key players, the President, and legislative neophytes Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief Economic Adviser Cohn are not familiar with the give and take involved in the legislative process, and continue to behave as though the Congress is a forum to make demands and power through until the other side caves.

The Administration’s tax overhaul proposal contains very little detail about the impact of the legislation on anticipated revenues gained and lost and the impact on the deficit in the short and long term. But facts still matter, and when taxes are being discussed and changes being made that affect most everyone in the country, individuals and businesses alike, legislative changes must be made in a fiscally responsible way based on the best information and analysis available.

The current lack of information and specificity appears to be an attempt at obfuscation and is drawing much commentary in the media. It is true that looking at something such as the tax overhaul proposal which has such potential large economic consequences does offer the real possibility to come to different conclusions based on the assumptions being made. A debate in the tax committees, hearings and testimony would help the legislators. For example, today’s news about inflation and the interest rate and the Federal Reserve Governors differing views illustrates this.

If the Republican Congress and the White House try to come up with a rewrite of the tax code and then attempt to ram through their proposition without consensus it is doomed to failure. Probably even more than with health care, everyone is affected in their pocket or on their ledger, from the highly paid Washington lobbyist to the tax payer just barely making ends meet, and every business in the economy, from Goldman Sachs executives to the small businessmen and women who are aware of how every tax affects their bottom line.

So, to close a loophole for one person is to create an additional tax liability for someone else. If the mortgage deduction is reduced, as an example, then the individual deduction would, all things being equal, be raised proportionally. Lowering statutory tax rates on businesses requires closing “loopholes” which means that someone who presently has the loophole will lose. Since tax cuts must be offset by revenue-raising measures, it matters greatly how the tax cut is paid for. Merely holding the line on increasing a deficit could mean there would be cuts in basic programs such as those for low and middle-income wage earners.

Two sacred cows that bring in considerable revenue are marked for extinction: the A.M.T. (alternative minimum tax) and the Estate Tax. Both proposals give more than a hint of who the beneficiaries will be. It was reported by the NYT on Sept 28, 2017, that the alternative minimum tax forced Mr. Trump to pay $31 million in additional taxes in 2005. The Estate Tax affects only the wealthy these days— estates worth more than $5.49 million ($10.98 million for a couple). Proposals for these sacred cows, if agreed to be eliminated, loom large because of the lost revenue which must then be made up in some other way. In other words, to benefit a few of the wealthy, there is a real possibility that the middle class and the poor would lose as the balance is tilted against them.

The dearth of information at this beginning stage about the effect of the tax reduction proposal could be deliberate, or it could reflect a lack of appreciation of how to propose legislation. For example: tax policy in America has contained an unwritten principle as reflected in the present code; progressivity—which means that the lowest tax rate which is for lower-income workers ranges from 10 percent, to the highest bracket for the very wealthy which is presently 39.6 percent. Nothing I have read so far pays any lip service or provides helpful information on this important point.

At some point in the legislative process, in order for a bill is taken seriously, the Congressional Budget Office undertakes the task of scoring the proposal, which simply means it is charged to put numbers to the proposal so the legislators will know the financial impact of what is being proposed, such as revenue gains or revenue losses. Doing the scoring came up during the health care debate and seemed an anathema to the Senate Majority Leader at least during its consideration.

All persons who are following the proposed rewrite of the tax code will need to be quite vigilant that the estimates are made by those reliable to make them. Trying to skirt this requirement and projecting positive economics because of the old saw that reducing revenue to business expands economic output just should not be allowed to happen. A good example follows of some of the hype used by proponents in the recent past. In an article in the NYTimes of 9/27/17 entitled Will Tax Holiday Generate Jobs? It Didn’t take a Decade Ago, Eduardo Porter writes that the tax break approved by a bipartisan majority in Congress in order to repatriate billions of dollars stashed overseas at 5.25 percent (instead of the corporate rate of 35 percent) was supposed to create more than 500,000 jobs in the US over the next two years. In point of fact, the jobs did not come in. The corporations who took advantage of the tax break did flow $299 billion in corporate earnings back, “but it did not result in an increase in domestic investment, domestic employment or R&D” the article states. “Promises, promises… ”

And just a word on bipartisanship. President Trump had dinner recently with “Chuck and Nancy” (the Senate and House Minority Leaders) at a time when things were unraveling over the debt ceiling: surprise! The President and Chuck and Nancy reached a deal that got everyone past the immediate crisis. As I write this there is news that a bipartisan group of legislators in the Senate who serve on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee have held hearings on stabilizing Obamacare insurance marketplaces, and have gathered input from some of their colleagues and are bargaining over the outlines of a deal which could stabilize the insurance marketplaces. Some reforms are being discussed, states would be given more freedom design and experiment, and even a lower level “copper” health insurance plan is being talked about. These events give me some hope—since if I learned one thing on the Hill it is when the members finally decide to do something and work together they find a way to do it.

I can only hope that today the Joint Committee on Taxation is as professional and competent as it was when I served on the Hill. At that time the committee had a deep bench of very able non-partisan staff headed by a Staff Director of impeccable credentials. Such experience and institutional memory are invaluable when taking on a task like tax reform or overhaul.

It seems almost inconceivable to me that the Republican Congressional leaders and the Administration would try yet again to legislate on a partisan basis. While I am very much in favor of improving the tax code and think it is long overdue, I just hate to think that so much effort could just be squandered by a group of Congressmen and the White House who appear not to have learned anything from their past failures, and who have not yet assumed the mantle of true leadership which requires working with everyone in order to achieve a result worthy of everyone’s best efforts.


Bob Ketcham served as the chief of staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology and staff director of the Fossil and Nuclear Energy Subcommittee during the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to those positions, he was Special Counsel to the House Select Committee on Committees chaired by Richard Bolling (D-MO).  He holds a BA and JD from Washington and Lee University as well as a SG from Harvard University’s Senior Managers in Government Program. He has lived on the Eastern Shore since 1999 with his wife, Caroline.

From South of Left Field: Political Drugs by Jimmie Galbreath

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History is the unsung foundation to understanding politics. Not the history of names, dates and short little paragraphs taught in our schools today but history as the story; richer, deeper and alive. The connections between what is and what was are direct and real. It is the things we know little about that make it easy for us to be frightened and manipulated. It is real knowledge that gives us the courage to choose our own opinions rather than accept the opinions of others. Only babies should be spoon fed.

Poking around my mental closet of ‘common knowledge’ learned from childhood, another gem that changed over the years relates to governments in general. America was the gold standard Democracy and Russia and China the failing evil dictatorships because that is what a Communist government is. The Democracy I was taught was childish in its simplicity, and it remained that way for quite a number of years. Vietnam, Watergate and time opened the door to new research. What had my teachers failed to tell me?

Today Democracy means any government structure made up of elected representatives. Ooooh, impressive sounding, isn’t it. Then it got a little complicated. The Russian (Soviet and today) and Chinese governments have elected officials. Do we amend Democracy and say it must have more than one political party?

From there I began to read books on Soviet and Chinese modern history and moved on to ‘The Communist Manifesto.’ Much to my surprise both communism and socialism were not models of government but economic systems. The thrust behind these systems was to remove the wealth inequality that exists in a capitalistic economy. The philosopher Karl Marx proposed that the evolution of economic systems from slavery to feudalism to capitalism would continue on to communism. Communism as the next evolutionary step would remove private ownership of factories, mines, farms, etc. and all the people would own everything in common. The adjustment here was mind-bending. I have chased my tail around and around trying to comprehend how that economic system would work to produce the complex items we have today which requires resources from around the globe. I guess I am not evolved enough yet.

Looking for a government structure in this system I kept running into either ‘direct Democracy’ or ‘representative Democracy.’ You read that right; the ideal new economy still requires people to work together to reach decisions which still needs votes which is still Democracy. Imagine that.

‘Direct Democracy’ would be citizens voting directly for a law rather than having elected representatives such as our Congress to do it. That would be cumbersome. ‘Representative Democracy’ is what we already have! There is no dictatorship in communism or socialism if it is implemented exactly as the founders laid it out. Russia and China aren’t really communist because both have a capitalist economic system. Now folks, from here it is time to circle back to where we are today. The system laid down by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, while ideally eliminating income inequality requires that we all become selfless and totally trusting and sharing with each other for this to work. A level of social evolution that is clearly absent in our current leadership and largely lacking in our current society.

This may sound bleak, and I don’t mean for it to be. The range of forms of Democracy are amazingly broad. Our flavor of Democracy has changed since first established by the Constitution. Originally the States decided who could vote, and they generally allowed only white adult property-owning males to do so. Only members of the House of Representatives were elected directly. Senators were selected by the State House of Representatives for each state. The President was selected by an Electoral College. It was a pretty narrow Democracy compared to what we have today.

The thing about a Democracy is you can have a wide variety of voting rights and freedom, or very limited voting rights and few freedoms while still meeting the definition. It is not enough to say a country is a Democracy; rather one should say WHAT KIND of Democracy a country has.

Iran has all the organizations of a Democracy with elections. There is a Supreme Leader (Executive), Legislative (Parliament), Judiciary and an Assembly of Experts (legal and religious). The last organization has to approve anyone wanting to run for office. This version of Democracy is a Theocracy, and the State religion exerts tremendous power over the people and government. Our religious fundamentalists seek to move us down this path with rule by their religion rather than a political party. Hearing repeatedly statements that America is a Christian nation sends shivers down my spine as the Founders clearly had no such criteria in mind.

China has the Executive branch (President and State Council), Legislative (National People’s Congress), Judicial (Supreme People’s Court) but only one political Party is allowed. Once again control by a single entity with a restricted set of voters while still having the trappings of Democracy. It is ironic that the Party claims to be a communist Party despite the fact that capitalism is rampant there. There are no real communist or socialist economies as there are no countries without capitalism. Don’t believe me? Find a country without a corporation or a businessman. Good luck.

Today we have a democracy in America that follows the desires of wealthy families and corporations more than the will of the people. I am amused and repulsed listening to Republican politicians trying to sound humane while touting a medical industry solution to healthcare. Insisting that all Americans can afford decent healthcare from a corporation is an epic smoke and mirror act. Universal corporate healthcare is only universal for those who can afford it. This stance, profit over a healthy life, supports the idea that American Democracy is moving toward being an Oligarchy: a Democracy driven by a wealthy few placing the well-being of corporate wallets over the well-being of the general population.

There is no danger of communism or socialism overtaking America with anything other than a large scale revolution. Casting a national effort to secure a healthy life for all citizens as socialism is a baseless effort to paint a humane policy as something to be afraid of. Universal healthcare ends capitalism in the hospital where it should never have been allowed in the first place. It does not end capitalism overall. If caring for human life and quality of life is socialism then what does that say about capitalism’s goals in the hospital? Hint, the only thing a capitalist wants is money.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family-owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served three years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Op-Ed: In Trying Times, We Can Rely on Us by Robbie Gill

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One of the most enjoyable parts of working at the YMCA of the Chesapeake is the opportunity to interact with so many different members of our community every day. Regardless of where people grew up or what they are doing today, just about everyone has a “Y story.” Each one is a little different (including learning to swim; camps and youth sports; afterschool programs; serving as volunteers and mentors; finding ways to get healthy as a family, and much more), but at its core, all experiences are reminders of the Y’s place in our community. In short, the Y understands that our collective success is rooted in our communities and our mission is to bring us together, to make us better as individuals, communities and as a nation.

It often feels like we live in a time that defines us by our differences; but the ties that bind us together—while frayed—are not broken. Our community is more diverse than you might think—whether it be age, gender, race, religion, ability or something else—and many of us have different backgrounds and experiences that help form our worldview. What we don’t realize (or we sometimes forget) is that understanding different points and experiences helps make us all stronger.

Our Y plays a huge role in strengthening communities across the Eastern Shore, but also reinforces the positive, collective change we can make happen when we put aside our differences and work together for the greater good.

Regardless of where or how you’re involved, I challenge all members of our community to find something you care about and make it better. If you don’t know where to start, give me call and we’ll connect you to some incredible opportunities. We’re a charity driven to bring people together through a lens of love, compassion and acceptance all in the name of making a better you, a better me and a better us!

Robbie Gill is the Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA of the Chesapeake.

Observing From My Porch by Nancy Mugele

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In my youth I fashioned myself as the next Nancy Drew. We shared the same first name and I read every book in the series as fast as they were published. Nancy was clever, feisty, and independent, and her detective skills were first rate. She was a great role model for me – showing me what girls were capable of doing at a time when there were not many female protagonists for me to read about and connect with. With apologies to The Bookplate for not sharing, I still have every one of my Nancy Drew books. They survived our recent downsizing and will forever be lining my bookcases.

Later, I decided I was more suited for a career as a writer than a sleuth so I decided to hang up my fingerprinting kit and stop staring at people with mistrust. I picked up a notepad and pen and set my sights on becoming a journalist like investigative reporter Lois Lane of The Daily Planet.

As I grew older Anna Quindlen, author, journalist and opinion columnist, became my writer idol. She was just ten years older than I was yet I felt as though I was following her down a strangely similar path in life. Or better yet, she was paving the way for my journey. I connected with her words in a meaningful and powerful way. “That’s what’s so wonderful about reading,” she wrote in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake: A Memoir of a Woman’s Life, “that books and poetry and essays makes us feel as though we’re connected, as though the thoughts and feelings we believe are singular and sometimes nutty are shared by others, that we are more alike than different.”

I read everything Anna writes and continue to do so today. Everything I learned about navigating New York City and personal relationships as a young career-oriented twenty-something was in the lines of her columns. I learned about motherhood and balancing a career and home through her words and experiences. I even learned a little bit about decorating a home and using the color red! Also in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake – a look at life, friends, and family at 60 years old Anna writes: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.” And for me, that is the best advice of all.

I have had the distinct pleasure to meet Anna Quindlen twice, and yes, she has even been in my car – I was star struck and almost had an accident exiting her hotel but that is another story! I was with her a year and a half ago on the eve of the birth of her first grandchild. I cannot wait to read about her life as a grandmother in her next chapter. I know I will gain much wisdom from her insights.

“I’m a novelist.” Anna wrote in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, “My work is human nature. Real life is really all I know.” Lucky for me her real life could shape and inspire mine.

Writing for the Chestertown Spy fulfills a lifelong goal to express myself through the written word. I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my thoughts every other week. My full time job is incredibly rewarding and brings great joy to my life but my “side hustle” (as my adult children refer to my column) is a really fun, creative outlet! To me, writing is simply about observing the world around you and sharing it.

Observing from my porch…

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s. 

From South of Left Field: Re-Union by Jimmie Galbreath

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Unions, now there is something we aren’t taught in school. Try this on for size, in 1619 Polish craftsmen brought to Jamestown were not allowed to partake in the Virginia colony elections. They went on strike and due to their economic importance won the right to vote. Was this action justified?

This small action reflects the meaning of collective bargaining; people who lack a right they desire to resort to collective action to get it. In this case, the government wasn’t providing the right to vote, so they took action to get rights equal to the others. Later in history women collectively marched for the right to vote. Acting collectively can mean voting or striking, depending on who and what is the issue.

Here in the United States, two major examples of politically driven inequality can be found in women gaining the right to vote and the myriad racial inequalities addressed by the Civil Rights movement. Both were collective actions to gain a right or remove an inequality. Ideally, by voting and keeping politicians focused on the welfare of the common citizen, actions such as these would not be necessary. The government should work to limit abuses such as murder, enslavement, and suppression of the right to live a reasonable and safe life.

Unions? Well now, back in the day workers in factories could be under age 7 and work 12-18 hours a day around machinery that operated without guards to prevent injury or death. The owners lived in luxury and wealth unlimited by tax law or regulation. Abject poverty was the worker’s problem, not theirs. Worker health and safety, just be careful. Dangerous fumes or chemicals? Too bad. Injured? Fired! Ah, the good ole glory days of a Greater unregulated America. This was trickle down as it worked, and ‘trickle’ is the operative word.

Snide perhaps, but actually a fair representation of the way things were before citizens, workers, and reformers began to change the status quo to provide a more favorable life for everyone. The struggle to remove children from mines and factories and provide them schooling was waged for over a century by many organizations including Unions. Their primary opposition was from businessmen and corporations working with elected officials and police.

The introduction of regulations to provide better working conditions to improve health and safety was also an effort by many groups, notably Unions. Again the opposition was businessmen, corporations, and elected officials.

To quote a great man born here in Maryland, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Frederick Douglass.

Our nation has a long history of struggle to achieve equal rights from an unequal society. Perhaps we aren’t taught real history in our schools, because if we were the long struggle from one strongpoint of resistance to another, driving toward a more equal society would be apparent. Slavery, Women’s votes, Civil Rights, LGBT rights, all are just flashpoints of conflict between the oppressed and the oppressor stretching throughout our national history but glossed over (if taught at all) in our schools. We aren’t taught an awareness of why organizations such as the NAACP or Unions came to be.

The point I seek to make here is that the life cycle of the very organizations that rose from the common worker to demand better pay and safer working conditions, that fought to send our children to school rather than a factory or mine is dying. Not because they are no longer needed, but because they have been demonized and broken by our politicians. An outstanding example of this was Ronald Reagan firing the Air Traffic Controllers in 1981 when they refused to return to work from their Union’s strike. Not content with firing, he barred them for life from working for Civil Service. Recently many states under Republican control have passed laws preventing citizens from collectively bargaining for better wages or working conditions. For example, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Texas and Virginia won’t even let teachers bargain for better pay or working conditions.

These are dangerous trends because there is little difference between collective bargaining, collectively protesting, or collectively voting. Please pause and consider that this effort is one to limit or outlaw us from acting collectively. Politicians (the tools of wealth) start by demonizing Unions, using ‘shoot from the hip’ claims of Unions being controlled by organized crime, is made up of communists or socialists (they are actually different things), or of hurting business.

Unions were born because the wealth generated by an industrializing America was retained by the owners and little or nothing was shared with the workers. Unions were formed to free children from dangerous jobs. Unions were formed to improve safety in the work place. Unions were formed because the elected politicians failed to do any of this until their backs were pushed against the wall.

The bottom line is this, the time to begin to swing the pendulum away from government favoring the wealthy and back to government improving the lot of the general working population has arrived. Unions can help. Corporations will not.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Resisting the Democratic Agenda on Higher Education: A Hill Worth Dying On by Joseph Prudhomme

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I just returned from a panel discussion in San Francisco on the Republican Party in the era of President Donald Trump. A seasoned colleague on the panel mentioned that the Democratic Party increasingly sees the New York governor Andrew Cuomo as the torchbearer of progressive reform, a political maestro in the spirit of Bernie Sanders—yet a salable Sanders, a nimble politico unburdened with hoary age, a socialist self-identity, and a checkered past (of honeymoons in Communist Russia and rape fantasy porn fiction). Cuomo, my colleague averred, is a younger and fresher champion of the policy perspectives espoused by the Warren-Sanders wing of the Democratic establishment.

A core of the appeal of Cuomo is the New York policy on higher education he shepherded through the state assembly: free college education for all, an agenda the national Democratic party hopes to adopt across the country. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. There may well be genuine downsides to this new policy: quality could soon be sacrificed as the system becomes bloated, regulations could prove excessive, and the taxes needed to support the program could prove detrimental in a myriad of ways. These are each worthwhile questions and deserve our serious and careful review.

However, I hold what I believe to be a sufficiently damning critique on its own, a criticism that becomes apparent once the fine print of the New York statute bubbles to the forefront: this government give-away is only for students attending not merely in-state colleges and universities (a sensible proviso since the tax burden is borne only by New Yorkers) but for those attending a state college or university: no in-state private college or university is supported by the Governor’s vaunted legislative victory.  

This will cause a wave of destruction of small denominational colleges who simply will no longer be able to compete in a crowded higher education marketplace.  It can only lead to a tremendous “crowding out” (a term economists use to refer to state funding displacing private capital). Indeed, crowding out is precisely what happened in the United Kingdom and on the European continent. There are no longer any small denominational colleges in these regions—they are impossible to run in light of state-funded secular education.

A string of corpses will litter the New York landscape in the wake of Cuomo’s legislation. For how can Hilbert College, Canisius College or Iona College (all Catholic), or Davis College (non-denominational Christian), or Concordia College (Lutheran) survive Cuomo’s tidal wave of undercutting competition, his brutal battery of what trade economists call unfair dumping?  Many simply can’t. All will struggle.

I do not know whether the end result on denominational colleges was intended —although I would not put it past the Democratic party which labored for the bill, given the stentorian secular voices in the party’s political base. But whether intentional or not, the net result is the same: a government war on religious higher education.

A simple solution to this egregious problem is voucherizing any subsidized higher education program.  Students could receive a grant (equal to the average cost of in-state tuition) and they could apply this amount to attend any accredited in-state college of their choice. This, in fact, was precisely what was good enough for the Greatest Generation through the much-celebrated GI Bill. I hazard to say, it should be good enough for us, too. Furthermore, such a policy would leave unscathed America’s rich ecosystem of denominationally grounded college education.  At least, common sense would seem to say so.   

But reality is a bitter mistress, and common sense her hapless victim far too often.  It is just very hard to stop the government from giving people “freebies.” And the Left is culturally and politically ascendant (sensing blood in the water from a weakened president, and seeing a rapidly diversifying and secularizing society erode core foundations of the Grand Old Party); a common sense voucher program might no longer carry the day—given the identification of vouchers with the now reviled Religious Right, and a lack of concern for religion skyrocketing among core components of the Democratic political establishment.

My common sense proposal, therefore, may well prove to be a last stand, indeed.

The Democratic party’s educational policy, however, is just so plainly wrong–and a voucherized alterative just so plainly right—that I am led merely to proclaim in the words of a great man who inspired the founding of so many now-beleaguered, regional liberal arts colleges:

“here I stand; I can do no other.”

Joseph Prud’homme is a professor at Washington College, and founder of the school’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture. He lives with his wife and family in Easton, Maryland.